Thursday, April 30, 2009

Obama Did Not Inherit the Economy from Bush

President Barak Obama's claim that he "inherited" the economy of the United States from President George W. Bush is false.

I had already noted in an earlier post that Obama claimed to have inherited budget deficits from Bush. Although he he had inherited the debt, he had not inherited all of the current annual budget deficit, which he himself added to dramatically as president, and certainly not any deficits after this fiscal year, which are approved under his administration. It is worth noting that Obama, as a U.S. Senator during Bush's second term, had voted for much of the excessive domestic spending during that time, especially the increase in the final two years of the Bush Administration when Obama's Democratic Party gained the majority control of both houses of Congress, which authorizes all spending. Obama nevertheless criticized Bush for fiscal irresponsibility, as if he had not contributed to it as a Senator, and as if somehow Bush's budget deficit helped cause the recent economic downturn, yet has approved or proposed far more domestic spending, supposedly in order to stimulate economic growth, even though his spending plan is hardly stimulative in the short term. My point is not to equate the budget with the economy, but to demonstrate that Obama and his liberal supporters are misleading when claiming that everything bad was inherited by Obama from Bush.

The claim that Obama inherited the bad economy from Bush is like claiming that when Obama was sworn into office on January 20, 2009, he inherited Winter from Bush. Neither Bush nor any other president is responsible for the economy because the economy is not the responsiblity of government in the first place, especially the federal government of the United States. In other words, to complete the metaphor about inheritance, Obama did not inherit the economy from Bush because Bush could not have bequeathed something to his successor of which he never had title.

Presidents are not responsible for the economy because it is generally not their duty to promote prosperity. Their duty is to protect our rights. Although presidents, together with Congress, have areas of authority that impact the economy, and they ought not to harm the economy unnecessarily, the federal government does not control the entire economy, such as socialist or fascist governments totally control the economies of their states. Therefore, presidents do not have economic policies per se, only economic aspects to their fiscal or other policies. At times, presidents must even engage in policies that are harmful to the economy in order to protect our liberty. For example, President Thomas Jefferson approved a trade embargo against the United Kingdom for its impressment of American sailors on the high seas, which caused an economic depression. Yet many liberals who seem to hold the state of the economy as one of the most significant barometers of a president's performance judge Jefferson's presidency favorably. But even if all of a president's policies approved by Congress are economically beneficial, the economy may not necessarily prosper because of other problems beyond his control, just as he cannot receive fairly all of the credit for any prosperity his policies helped to stimulate. Conversely, the economy may continue to grow despite harmful government economic policies.

George W. Bush was not responsible for the economic downturn that occurred in the latter part of his second term, after a lengthy period of prosperity. Inflation, caused in part by a rise in energy prices because of increased global demand for oil (because of an increase in global prosperity), damaged the economy. Liberals blamed Bush for the price of oil, as if he ought to be responsible for it, even though many liberals, like Obama, favor higher energy prices.

Obama's economically fascist policies (i.e. indirect socialism whereby ownership of businesses remains private, but under the control of the State), however, are bringing the United States to the point that the president will become responsible for the economy. Then Obama will be unable to escape much of the blame for his economically harmful policies.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

"The Hundred Days" Update

I posted on April 3, upon congressional approval of President Barak Obama's budget, about the practice of judging new presidents after their first one hundred days, noting how arbitrary the practice is. I submitted at that time that a better milestone is at least upon the approval of the new president's budget, or perhaps as late as the end of the congressional session.

The last 26 days have vindicated me, as few policies of any major significance have been changed or initiated by the Obama Administration since then. The Administration did score a minor victory against the Somali pirates, but a comprehensive strategy to defend the freedom of the seas has yet to be announced. One significant policy change supported by Obama has been approved by Congress: killing the successful school voucher system in the District of Columbia that allowed parents to rescue their children from one of the worst public school districts in the United States.

Obama's policy of criticizing the U.S., which he applied often this month during his travels abroad, is counterproductive to advancing American interests. Instead of making terrorists and anti-American dictators hate the U.S. less, Obama validates their views, in addition to appearing weak. Obama's policy, which also validates every foreign liberal critic of the U.S., reflects the common liberal view that terrorism is created by American actions, instead of by an immoral ideology that is based upon a hatred for who Americans are more so than a reaction to what Americans do. It is because Islamic militants hate Americans in the first place that they dislike what Americans do to defend themselves or advance their interests.

Liberals criticized the Administration of President George W. Bush for its alleged counterterrorism excesses out of some supposed concern about foreign opinion, when they should have been defending America against any criticism by foreigners that even the liberals know to be false or unfair. In other words, instead of complaining about how Bush had hurt the image of the United States among Muslims and others, I challenge liberals to defend the U.S. image. But the liberals have preferred to score political points against Bush and the Republicans than defend the U.S. I suspect that the liberals focus on how Bush supposedly created more terrorists through aggressive interrogations of September 11 plotters in order to avoid having to acknowledge how many terrorists he captured or killed, let alone deterred from attacking the U.S. again. In short, liberals refuse to give Bush any credit for thwarting any terrorist attack like September 11 for over seven years because they insist, despite the lack of an attack, that he supposedly made us less safe by angering Muslims with his domestic counterterrorism strategy or by liberating Iraq from a state-sponsor of terrorists and defeating the terrorists who flocked there to try to defeat the U.S. Obama's recent statements about the aggressive interrogations will have a chilling effect on American counterterrorism.

The other troubling pattern that has emerged in Obama's foreign policy is his willingness to engage in talks with anti-American dictators, including terrorist sponsors. Talking with dictators legitimatizes them, especially when it is a superpower doing the talking, which provides these rogues with domestic propaganda in order both to gain favor among their populations and to demoralize dissent. Talks with other foreign governments are a tacit recognition of the dictator's legitimate authority, let alone a sign of respect for his equal status with the state that enters into negotiations with him. Furthermore, the talks are a kind of strategic victory for such dictators because negotiations represent a reward for the bad behavior that the dictator used in the first place in order to get the attention of the U.S. and force the Americans to the bargaining table, who thus appear weak by showing up to negotiate.

I must respond at this point to the liberal argument to refute criticism by conservatives for the policy of negotiating with dictators that the practice must have been acceptable to Republicans because the Bush Administration had tried to negotiate with North Korea (although, by this argument, one would have expected the anti-Bush Obama to reject negotiations with North Korea because they were Bush's policy), and the further liberal argument that Bush had failed to prevent that dictatorship from acquiring nuclear weapons. It was the Clinton Administration that first negotiated with North Korea and appeased the North Koreans by giving them aid in return for a promise not to acquire nuclear weapons, which they broke. When the Bush Administration discovered North Korea's violation of the agreement, it engaged North Korea in six-party talks that included all of the regional states besides the U.S. and North Korea: South Korea, Japan, China and Russia, so as to bring leverage upon North Korea without rewarding North Korea with bilateral talks with the U.S. alone. Although the Bush Administration failed to prevent North Korea from acquiring nuclear weapons, it accomplished much more than the Clinton Administration: it punished North Korea by withdrawing aid to North Korea and imposing economic sanctions on the Hermit Kingdom, got the United Nations to impose harsh sanctions on North Korea, implemented an international interdiction program on the high seas to prevent North Korean nuclear proliferation, and implemented missile defense.

An even worse aspect of Obama's foreign policy is that he seems to be the only one making any concessions before engaging in any negotiations. For example, Obama loosened the U.S. trade embargo against Cuba, which will provide an economic lifeline to that failed socialist state without any concessions by the Cuban dictatorship of human rights to the Cuban people in return.

Although Obama has mostly followed Bush's policies in the War on Terrorism, Obama's rhetoric and behavior, which is probably motivated by a desire to differentiate himself stylistically from Bush, is undermining his ability to protect the United States from terrorist attacks and defend American interests against a rise in left wing authoritarianism.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Specter Departure Strengthens GOP

The not-surprising switch of United States Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania from the Republican Party back to the Democratic Party strengthens the GOP Senate caucus by leaving it relatively more conservative. Republican Senators now have more flexibility to stick to their conservative principles without having to be concerned about losing Specter's vote to the Democrats.

Although Arlen Specter occasionally sided with conservatives, he often voted with liberals on key votes, such as taxes, judges and abortion, which gave him a liberal, not a "moderate" voting record -- as liberals and media commentators claim. Many of us Pennsylvania Republican conservatives therefore opposed Specter, whom we nearly defeated for the GOP nomination in 2004. But some Republican conservatives sided with moderates and liberals in backing the Senior Senator from Pennsylvania because of his seniority and ability to direct federal spending to the Keystone State, as well as the perception that he would be electable more easily, which would be critical in keeping the Republican majority in the U.S. Senate.

President George W. Bush and incumbent Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum backed Specter in 2004 against former U.S. Representative Pat Toomey, but Bush and Santorum were not supporting Specter for renomination in 2010. More importantly, recent political polls indicated a strong lead for Toomey among Pennsylvania Republicans in the rematch for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate.

Apparently, conservative Republicans have finally become fed up with Specter's liberal voting record, especially his recent vote for Barak Obama's $800 billion spending spree that would necessitate higher taxes because of excessive borrowing and also undoes welfare reform. Specter, who usually would tack to the starboard side at election time, tried his familiar strategy when he recently announced his opposition to the union "card check" proposal that would eliminate the secret ballot in union organizing elections, which effectively killed off the proposal for now, as his was the necessary 40th vote to oppose ending the Republican filibuster against the unpopular measure. But the he was disappointed to learn that his vote against his Big Labor supporters had regained him little political support among likely Republican primary voters.

Specter's vote for Obama's so-called stimulus had proved to be a watershed moment among Pennsylvania's conservative Republicans. By failing to oppose excessive spending by the federal government and the concomitant increase in its size, he had cast his vote for higher taxes and less liberty. Specter had failed the minimum standard for being a Republican.

Specter's excuse in switching back to the Democratic Party that the Republican Party had moved far to the right since Ronald Reagan was belied by recent Republican Congressional excessive spending. The Senior Senator from Pennsylvania had freely participated in that spending, culminating in his own vote in favor of Obama's $800 billion plan, in which he joined with only two other liberal Republican Senators to provide the necessary votes to block a GOP filibuster against the plan. Indeed, Specter's vote for Obama's spending spree was possibly his most anti-Reagan Revolution vote in his 28-year Senate career.

Now conservative Republicans can campaign against Specter's vote for Obama's excessive spending, borrowing and taxing, and in favor of fiscal responsibility and liberty. Keystone State conservatives will be energized to support Toomey over Specter in 2010, which will help all conservative Republicans on the ballot in Pennsylvania.

In short, Arlen Specter's vote for Obama's so-called stimulus plan cost him the Republican renomination for U.S. Senate, but his return to the Democratic Party makes it easier for the GOP to return to its Reaganesque conservative principles, which, no matter what the outcome of the 2010 Pennsylvania Senate race, will strengthen the Republican Party and the conservative movement for the next several years.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Two Big Myths About the Founding Fathers: The Myth About the Three Fifths Rule and the Myth that Washington Warned Against "Entangling Alliances"

The Myth About the Three Fifths Rule

In my last post, I mentioned that the Three Fifths Rule in the Constitution of the United States (Article I, Section 2 Clause 3) is often misunderstood to be some sort of racist or, at least pro-slavery provision, when it is the opposite.

The same clause of the Constitution requires a census to be taken every ten years in order to determine the population, for the purposes of apportioning seats in the U.S. House of Representatives. Every state is represented by a minimum of one representative. The larger a state's population, the more representatives it has in the House.

The Three Fifths Rule required that a slave be counted as three-fifths of a person for purposes of the census. Free blacks were counted the same as every other freeman, which proves that the rule was not racial. Slaves were counted as three-fifths of persons in order to reduce the census total for slave states, which thereby reduced the number of representatives apportioned to slave states. An important related constitutional provision (Article 1 Section 9 Clause 1) allowed Congress to prohibit the slave trade by 1808 -- within 25 years after the Constitution was written.

Because slave states had fewer representatives in the House than they otherwise would have had if the Three Fifths Rule had not been part of the Constitution upon its ratification, the power of the slave states in the U.S. House of Representatives was reduced significantly -- a reduction that minimized the spread of slavery, which eventually enabled the abolition of that institution.

The Myth that Washington Warned Against "Entangling Alliances"

The other big myth about the Founding Fathers of the United States is that George Washington warned in his Farewell Address in 1797 against "entangling alliances," as if he were opposed to all alliances, which by their nature are entangling. Although he did express concern about entangling, he did not warn against "entangling alliances."

Washington warned against "permanent alliances." He made an exception for the alliance that the United States already had at the time (i.e. with France). The exception proves that Washington was not against all alliances, but the more important point is that he was not opposed to temporary alliances, even though they are entangling.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Clinton Wrong to Compare Sanger with Jefferson

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton recently compared Planned Parenthood Foundress Margaret Sanger to Thomas Jefferson, in response to criticism for expressing admiration Sanger. Clinton was testifying before the U.S. House of Representatives for a hearing. When Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE) questioned how Clinton could express admiration for Sanger, the racist promoter of eugenics, Clinton stated that she admired Jefferson, despite his persistence in holding slaves.

Clinton's criticism of one of the Founding Fathers of the United States is part of a pattern of Clinton defenders. The Founders were accused -- unfairly and falsely, at times -- of all sorts of immoral behavior in order to make Bill Clinton's immoral behavior seem less evil than it was, even though none of the Founders ever committed perjury. Indeed, radical liberals like the Clintons and their defenders often like to criticise the Founders while professing to support the liberties the Founders championed, even though they tend to subscribe to the "fruit of the poison tree" theory that nothing good can come from evil people. Instead, they simply dismiss the Founders as "hypocrites" and attempt to co-opt the parts of the Founders' principles they like while ignoring or dimissing those parts they do not like.

Jefferson is often a target of these iconoclastic liberals when attempting to defend wrongdoing by one of their own or dismissing some principle handed down since the founding they find not expedient. Hillary Clinton's criticism of Jefferson for holding slaves, especially in comparison to Margaret Sanger, suggests her ignorance of history.

Thomas Jefferson inherited from his father-in-law both his slaves and the debt incurred in purchasing those slaves. He suffered from financial difficulties throughout much of his life and even had to borrow money from his slaves. Yet Jefferson provided for his slaves' education. He was not a proponent of slavery. In fact, Jefferson regarded slavery as repugnant because he believed in liberty for all, but struggled to find an accetable solution.

The Constitution did not immediately ban slavery, although it is important to remember that Jefferson was not a Delegate to the Constitutional Convention (a point that is often neglected by liberals when attempting to elevate Jefferson's opinions about the "separation of church and state" as constitutionally relevant). However, the Constitution provided for the phasing out of the slave trade by 1808 and limited the growth of slavery through the Three-Fifths Rule, which diluted the representation of slave states in the House of Representatives by only counting slaves as three-fifths of persons for purposes of apportioning representatives. Note: the biggest myth in the United States today is that the Three-Fifths Rule was some kind of a racist provision, which is claimed in order to besmirch the reputations of the Founders and the United States itself; it was an important anti-slavery provision!

It is worth remembering that Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence, and Virginia's religious liberty statute, as well as founded the University of Virginia. Jefferson served as Secretary of State under President George Washington and Vice President under President John Adams, and then two terms as president himself. In short, Jefferson's legacy of promoting liberty, as well as Virginia and the United States, is profound, despite his holding of slaves.

In contrast, Margaret Sanger's legacy is one of denying the most basic liberty -- the right to life -- to the most defenseless of human beings. Sanger advocated not only sexual immorality, but eugenics -- the elimination of classes of people deemed inferior through the promotion of artificial birth control and abortion. One group of people in particular Sanger though ought to have been eliminated because she regarded them as inferior was black people. An embarssing fact for the pro-abortion movement is that Planned Parenthood, the largest provider of abortions in the U.S., was founded, in part, because its foundress was a bigot who wanted to eliminate the black race.

Only radical liberals like Hillary Clinton could equate an elightened slave-owner whose promotion of liberty led to the elimination of slavery in the United States with an evil bigot who believed in eliminating people she deemed inferior whose legacy has undermined the institution of the family and nearly destroyed the black family in America.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Tax Reform Needed, in Addition to Tax Cuts

One of the sub-themes of the Tax Day Tea Party Protests against the expansion of the federal government has been that the federal tax code has grown too complicated.

Because of the complexity of the tax code, it is difficult to be certain that one is in compliance with it. Plus, the tax code is costly, both in terms of time and money. Furthermore, the complex code provides opportunities for special interests to lobby for favorable changes, meaning that the federal government gains increasing influence over commerce, while special interests gain increasing influence over lawmakers. Either a flat federal income tax or a federal sales tax is necessary to replace the current code, with the provision that only one or the other be levied, not both.

Barak Obama's mortgage bailout plan, whereby those who bought homes beyond their ability to pay and, in some cases, even lied about their creditworthiness, would be bailed out by those who lived within their means, is what sparked the initial public outrage. CNBC's Rick Santelli, upon the Obama Administration's announcement of the mortgage bailout, suggested on the floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange that Americans throw tea parties, like they did during the American Revolution, to protest the bailout. Americans fed up with federal government bailouts have been using the protests to vent their frustration not only over the unfair mortgage plan that rewards bad behavior, but the massive growth of the federal government, with its concomitant increased spending, borrowing and taxing.

The effectiveness of these tea party protests can be judged by the hostile reaction from liberals, including in the media. Some of the media have ignored the story of the protests altogether, while others have been questioning the motivations and the funding of the protesters -- something they hardly ever do over the usual liberal protests. Liberals try to dismiss the protesters by pointing out that this April 15, taxpayers were paying last year's federal income tax, as if we were ignorant of this fact. April 15 was chosen as the date for most of the protests because of its symbolism. The tea party I attended was thrown at the post office, in order to take advantage of the opportunity of being seen by taxpayers were arriving to file their tax returns. There will probably be more tea parties thrown on July 4.

Conservatives have wisely taken this opportunity to promote tax reform, in addition to tax cuts. Now is the time for conservatives to resist too much federal intrusion in the economy by promoting spending restraint, as well as tax cuts and tax reform.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Cinfici Assists at Reading Tea Party He Helped Inspire

I helped inspire and assisted at a tea party protest against overspending and taxing by the federal government today at the main local postal branch in Reading, Pennsylvania.

The event, under the organizational attachment to FreedomWorks, was hastily organized within the last few days, after I had noted at a local political meeting earlier this month that no one had at that point taken the initiative to organize a local tea party. An attendee of the meeting took the initative and quickly put the event together. Despite the short period of preparation, overcast skies and the fact that another tea party protest was held the same day elsewhere in the same county, the tea party protest drew over 100 people.

The event was orderly, as participants carefully kept to the sidewalks and kept out of the heavy traffic of income tax return filers making their way to the post office to meet today's deadline. Many motorists honked or waived their support, while there were almost none who voiced any opposition. There was no foul language, threats or even any manifestations of anger. Indeed, although the protesters were upset about the runaway federal spending, borrowing and taxing, the mood of the crowd was relatively festive. Many of us protesters were participating in our first public demonstration, but knew how to exercise the right to peaceably assemble in an exemplary fashion.

It is important to note that the protesters were not anti-government, but anti-big government. Indeed, many of them held American flags or wore patriotic attire. The protesters were not anti-tax, but anti-excessive taxation, as there was only one individual who had any materials that indicated opposition to all taxation. Otherwise, there were no expressions of any radical opinions whatsoever. The participants were concerned not only about the financial costs of the massive increase in the size of the federal government, but about the corresponding loss of liberty. Although there were a number of conservative activists present who are also active Republicans, and the lone public officeholder to address the protesters was a Republican, the protest had a non-partisan tone, as even the leader of the event expressed frustration with the excessive federal spending by members of both parties.

A spirit of unity with Americans across the union pervaded the tea party that gave confidence to the participants that they are far from alone. The silent majority is finding its voice.

Tea Party Protests

To protest the excessive spending, borrowing and taxing by the federal government, consider attending a tea party protest near you, which you can locate at the following websites: or

However, I am also aware of a tea party being spontaneously organized in my home city of Reading, Pennsylvania, so there might be additional ones than the organized ones listed on those sites.

Income Tax Cuts Work Every Time

President Warren Harding proposed income tax cuts, which his successor, Calvin Coolidge, implemented after Harding’s death. The result was the prosperous period known as the Roaring Twenties. President John Kennedy proposed income tax cuts that were implemented by his successor, Lyndon Johnson, after Kennedy’s death, which contributed to the relative prosperity of the 1960s. President Ronald Reagan signed tax cuts into law, which produced one of the lengthiest peacetime expansions in U.S. history in the 1980s. President George W. Bush reduced taxes, which contributed to another period of economic prosperity in the 2000s.

In short, significantly reducing income tax rates, especially the highest rate on the highest income earners, promotes economic growth. The reason is not just because income earners get to keep more of their income, but because they have the incentive to work more than they would if income tax rates are too high, especially if the rates exceed 50%, and also to invest.

Income tax cuts are also good fiscal policy because each time federal income income taxes were reduced, federal revenue actually increased because of the increase in economic growth, despite the lower tax rate.

A Short Modern History of Taxes

As today is April 15, the deadline for filing federal income tax returns, we are reminded of Barak Obama's proposed income tax increase. A brief survey of modern income tax policy should give him pause in proposing to raise the tax rate on the highest incomes and cause him instead to consider cutting this tax rate for the same reason he cut the lowest income rate: to promote the growth of the economy.

President Franklin Roosevelt raised income taxes during the Great Depression and especially during the Second World War. However, after the war, Presidents Harry Truman and Dwight Eisenhower kept income taxes high. President John Kennedy proposed income tax cuts that were implemented by his successor, Lyndon Johnson, after Kennedy’s death. The Kennedy tax cuts lowered the highest income tax rate to a still-high 70% from the wartime rate of over 90%. As a result, the 1960s were relatively prosperous.

The inflation of the 1970s necessitated increases in wages, but because the tax rates were not indexed to inflation, people became victimized by “bracket creep” during the administration of President Jimmy Carter, which effectively raised taxes for many in the middle class, which contributed to the recessionary economy of the period.

President Ronald Reagan signed tax cuts into law that lowered the highest rate, which by this point was being paid by a far higher percentage of the population than earlier decades, to 28%. He also reduced the number of tax brackets, thereby ending bracket creep, which also effectively prevented tax increases for the middle class. Reagan’s tax cuts sparked the then-longest peacetime expansion in U.S. history in the 1980s.

Although Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton raised income taxes, the highest the rate reached was still just under 40%. And Clinton even cut some taxes (e.g. income tax credits and cuts in the capital gains tax) after the Republicans won the majority in Congress, which contributed to another period of prosperity in the 1990s.

President George W. Bush reduced tax rates for all income levels, back towards Reaganesque levels, which produced another period of economic prosperity in the 2000s. Thus, Reagan’s tax cuts, even on the highest income level, have remained mostly intact since 1981, which is why the period from 1982-2007 was the most prosperous and stable in American history.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Freedom of the Seas Update and Blog Notes

I hope that all of my readers had a blessed Easter.

We can all be grateful for the rescue off the coast of Somalia by the U.S. Navy of the American hostage who had been held by Somali pirates. The rescue affirms the principle of Freedom of the Seas that I discussed in my last post. Nevertheless, a more comprehensive defense of this important freedom is necessary, one which also addresses the anarchical situation in Somalia that is not only one of the root causes of the plague of piracy there, but also could allow the establishment of a terrorist safe haven on the Horn of Africa.

I have added two links to my blog, one to the page for Lepanto, by G.K. Chesterton, the other for the Italian American Cultural Center of Pennsylvania. I am proud that I recently surpassed 50 posts on my blog. My new counter has been revealing fascinating data: some of my postings have attracted interest around the world. But I am most grateful to have attracted a number of loyal readers. Thank you for your support!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Freedom of the Seas

One of the underrated contributions the United States has made to mankind is the principle of Freedom of the Seas, the tenet that private vessels must be allowed to sail freely on the high seas. Before internationally-recognized territorial limits, commerce was hindered by piracy and by states that sought tribute in exchange for safe passage. Tributes are like an involuntary toll for the privilege of sailing in international waters.

Americans recognized that commerce was in their essential interest, especially trade with Europe. But the Barbary Pirates of North Africa were particularly problematic for the Americans who had to sail past the waters they controlled in order to enter the Mediterranean Sea. The United Sates Navy defeated the Barbary Pirates by the early 1800s, which eliminated the necessity of tribute for any ship to sail to and from the Mediterranean. The Americans upheld the freedom of merchantmen to sail on the high seas in opposing the British and French practice during the Napoleonic Wars of impressing of American crewmen, culminating in the American victory over the British in the War of 1812.

As a result, acts of piracy against American ships had never occured since the early 19th Century until the recent seizure of an American freighter, the Maersk Alabama, by Somali pirates. The Mayaguez in 1976 was the only other merchant vessel seized during that time, but it was taken not by pirates, but by the Communist Khmer Rouge. Although piracy has continued into the modern era, it has long been recognized internationally as a scourge, and pirates have been treated like spies or terrorists, as having forfeited their rights. Indeed, the Freedom of the Seas was one of the Fourteen Principles of President Woodrow Wilson in promoting peace after the First World War.

Freedom of the Seas is something most Americans, as well as many people around the world, probably have taken for granted -- until now. But they should appreciate better that it was something that had to be fought for. Freedom of the Seas has allowed much greater global commerce, which has improved the quality of lives of billions of people around the world, thanks to the United States of America. The U.S. is once again called upon to defend this American principle. May she be successful.

Friday, April 10, 2009

The Rise and Fall of Islamic Civilization

My recent posts about the Battle of Lepanto and Fr. Jaki remind me that the late priest and scientist had explained the reason for the decline of Islamic civilization, which is relevant to today's war against militant Islam.

Islam first appeared in the 7th Century, and achieved not only military success, as I have noted in earlier posts, but also technological, as well as artistic success. Indeed, Islamic civilization was probably the highest in the world by the middle of the Middle Ages. Inspired by Hellenistic civilization because of its proximity to the Byzantine Empire, Islamic civilization made major advancements in mathematics and medicine. For example, not only do we owe Arabic numerals to Islamic civilization, but the important concept of the zero. Algebra was invented by an Arab Muslim. We also owe a debt of gratitude to the medieval Arab Muslims who preserved many classical texts. In philosophy, Arab Muslims syncretized Hellenistic philosophers, like Socrates, Plato and Aristotle.

However, an objection to the ideas of these "infidels" was raised by al Ghazali in the 11th Century. Al Ghazali specifically rejected the Hellenistic philosophers, as well as the Judeo-Christian belief in a rational God. Because man cannot understand God and God is unfettered, God cannot, therefore, be rational and thus be understood, al Ghazali argued, for He is above reason. Although he maintained that nature is observable, al Ghazali portrayed God as arbitrary. Although some Muslims disagreed with al Ghazali, his view became the dominant one of Islam. Because Muslims see arbitrariness instead of order in nature, it is difficult for them to accept the laws of nature. It is easy to understand, then, why modern science developed in the late Middle Ages in Christendom, not in the Islamic world.

Because Islamic thought developed a different concept of nature than it originally had, the rise of Islamic civilization began to slow and, eventually, to decline. It continued to have military success, until the Battle of Lepanto in 1571 and the failed Siege of Vienna in 1683, the turning points against a rising Ottoman Turkish Empire. But without the necessary technological skills to keep pace with the Christians, and increasingly relying only on copying Western civilization, Islamic civilization failed to achieve the kind of military success it had previously enjoyed. Gradually, Christian states conquered most of the Ottoman Empire, ultimately defeating it in the First World War and dividing up most of its empire, leaving the rump that became the modern state of Turkey.

Many of the struggles today (e.g. Palestine, Cyprus, etc.) are a result of the carving up of the old Ottoman Empire. Saddam Hussein's sympathizers had even tried to excuse his invasion of Kuwait in 1990 as justified because of the arbitrary creation of Kuwait by the British, but it is important to bear in mind that the Ottoman Empire was conquered by Europeans in the first place because it had been conquering Europe for centuries.

The decline of Islamic civilization not only disturbs Muslims because of its lack of military success, but because it has become increasingly obvious that Western civilization has achieved not only superior military technology and training, but a higher degree of technology, health and wealth. The perceived inferiority of Islamic civilization has created a crisis of confidence among Muslims. Not only does it appear that no military leader is favored by Allah against the "infidels," but Islam does not seem to produce a superior civilization. A tendency has arisen among Muslims to blame the West for its troubles instead of focusing on their own development.

In the 20th Century, a pan-Arabic movement arose, typified by Egyptian leader Gamel Abdel Nasser in the 1950s. Pan-Arabism is the belief that Arab states should unite. By the late 1970s, an Islamic Revolution took place in Shi'ite Iran, which sought a return to Islamic civilization without the perceived polluting influences of the West.

The concern on the part of some Muslims about the perception among many Muslims that their civilization is inferior because of the technological superiority of the West was a motivation for the September 11 Attacks. The use of Western technology, i.e. aircraft, against the seats of Western financial and military power seems to suggest a message that Western technology is not a sign of superiority, but of vulnerability. Of course, the swift defeat of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, and the prevention of any other attacks on the scale of September 11, has helped to refute Osama bin Laden's theory of Western inferiority.

But the point is that it is necessary to stay on the offensive against militant Islam, while maintaining good relations with those Muslims who are not militant. Trade with the Islamic world beyond oil is important, as well as prayer and evangelization, especially to those parts of Asia and Africa that are neither Christian nor Muslim. Of course, the West should also focus on strengthening its own civilization, militarily and economically, as well as morally. Only then, the West will be able to coexist with Islamic civilization.

Lepanto, by G.K. Chesterton

My post yesterday in which I explain the necessity to defeat all forms of militant Islam, includes a reference to the Battle of Lepanto, the historical context of which I wrote in an essay entitled “The Aftermath” in a reprinting of the poem Lepanto by G.K. Chesterton, published by the American Chesterton Society and republished by Ignatius Press.

I observe in Lepanto how Islam's success in attracting converts has been based upon its success in military conquests. At times throughout history, a leader has arisen among Muslims who conquers vast amounts of territory, apparently favored by Allah. I discuss in my essay how Muslims seek to avenge their loss to the Christians at Lepanto, which marked the turning point against the growth of the Ottoman Turkish Empire, which they consider the last battle of the Crusades. In seeking vengeance, they look for any Muslim leader who demonstrates military prowess, which makes militants like Osama bin Laden appealing to so many Muslims, albeit a minority within Islam, and why it was critical to defeat Saddam Hussein, who portrayed himself as such a leader.

Indeed, there are parallels between Lepanto and the Liberation of Iraq. At Lepanto, a coalition of the willing launched a preemptive attack against militant Muslims who had been committing aggression. In both cases, the French refused to participate in the coalition. In short, the lesson of Lepanto is relevant today.

Chesterton's poem about the Battle of Lepanto is considered by literary critcis to be a masterpiece. The book of the same name that reprints the poem is annotated and includes a number of other explanatory essays besides mine which give the proper historical context and describe the account of the battle. Lepanto also includes two other relevant essays by Chesterton.

Coincidentally, I learned today that the total sales for the book have reached 7,500! Thank you for your support.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

September 11 vs. 9/11

United States President Barack Obama's referral to the September 11 Attacks as "9/11" reminds me that I have been intending to post on my preference for "September 11" over "9/11." "September 11" is an abbreviation for the "September 11 Attacks" or the "September 11 Terrorist Attacks." "9/11" is, therefore, an abbreviation of an abbreviation. I observe that "9/11" did not become the predominant abbreviation for the attacks until -- suddenly -- around the time of the first anniversary.

It is not that it is wrong to abbreviate an abbreviation, I suppose, but given the gravity of the attacks, it seems too lazy to abbreviate them to a second degree, as if "9/11" has become a euphemism for the massacre. In this sense, as a family member of a victim of the attacks, I find "9/11" somewhat offensive because the laziness inherent in the term seems disrespectful to the dead, as if the attacks are not important enough to be worth uttering two more syllables. "9/11" also seems too modern and informal for such terrible event. I realize that few, if anyone, intends the term "9/11" to come off the way I perceive it, but someone, especially a family member, needed to state this objection.

Additionally, some people even refer in speech to the attacks as "9-1-1," which is too easily confused with the emergency response phone number. Also, in Europe, the month and day are transposed. Thus, "9/11" refers to November 9. Therefore, "9/11" is not a universal abbreviation for the September 11 Attacks.

In short, although "9/11" is not incorrect, it is an inadequate and confusing secondary abbreviation. Moreover, "9/11" seems to trivialize one of the worst days in American history. Although I do not criticize those who use "9/11" instead of September 11, I always eschew the former and prefer the latter.

Obama's Standard for Justification for War Is Troubling

Barak Obama recently visited Iraq. Today, he also visited soldiers wounded in Iraq who are recovering in the U.S. Troops appreciate such visits by their Commander in Chief.

Strategically, Obama continues to make the right moves in Iraq, despite his gratuitous anti-Bush and anti-Liberation of Iraq rhetoric. As I have noted in earlier posts, Obama has vindicated George W. Bush’s policies in Iraq and, for the most part, in the overall War on Terrorism through his decision to maintain his predecessor’s policies. The recent progress on weapons of mass destruction made by the surviving members of the Axis of Evil, North Korea and Iran, makes us appreciate all the more the elimination of Iraq’s WMD program.

Obama’s rhetoric on Iraq, which he has continued since the presidential election campaign, as well as the continued threat from North Korea and Iran, provides the opportunity for me to post an essay here I wrote during the campaign that refutes his opposition to the Liberation of Iraq:

Obama's Standard for Justification for War Is Troubling

In the second presidential debate, Barack Obama admitted that he does not “understand how we ended up invading a country that had nothing to do with 9/11.” Obama’s statement reveals a disturbing lack of judgment and an inability to recognize the lessons of September 11th and the nature of the threat from Islamic militancy.

If Obama believes that only complicity in the September 11th Attacks justifies war, then the United States would never be able to go to war with North Korea or Iran, because they “had nothing to do with 9/11.” Although the justifications for liberating Iraq from the Baathist regime of Saddam Hussein are well known, it is apparently necessary to remind Obama of them.

First, Iraq was violating its 1991 cease-fire agreement by frequently attacking coalition aircraft patrolling the no-fly zones over Iraqi airspace. In other words, Iraq was continuing the “Mother of All Battles” by attacking American troops.

Second, Hussein’s Iraq was listed by the State Department as a state sponsor of terrorism for harboring and financing terrorists who targeted and killed Americans. Palestinian terrorist Abu Abbas, who hijacked the Achille Lauro, during which an American was murdered, was harbored for many years by Iraq. Through Abbas, Hussein funneled money to the families of suicide bombers. One such bomber killed four American soldiers in the Gaza strip. In part because Iraqi money is no longer funding suicide bombings, Americans are less fearful to travel to the Holy Land.

Third, Iraq refused to account for its known weapons of mass destruction (WMD), in violation of United Nations resolutions. This refusal allowed Hussein to continue to intimidate its neighbors. Although large stockpiles of WMD were not found in Iraq, hundreds of scattered old chemical weapons have been found, as well as the materials necessary to resume production of WMD once economic sanctions had been lifted. Yet possession of WMD alone does not justify war. It was because Hussein was a like an international parolee required to prove that he no longer possessed WMD that his refusal to do so forced the world to act.

In short, Iraq’s history of terrorism and aggression justified war. Obama cannot deny the justifications for the Liberation of Iraq, but even if Obama believes the war was not prudent, he nonetheless ought to be able to understand the reasonable arguments of those with whom he disagrees.

Although Iraq was not complicit in the September 11 Attacks, the Liberation of Iraq was prudent because it was relevant to the War on Terrorism. Note the war is not called the “War on al-Qaeda.” After all, the lesson of September 11 is that through modern technology, terrorists from anywhere in the world can strike at a time, manner and place of their choosing. Moreover, September 11 raised the bar for terrorists, inasmuch as American resolve to resist terrorism – even after such a massacre – means that terrorists believe that only an even larger attack could sufficiently intimidate Americans into giving into their demands.

Furthermore, it is noteworthy that the effort to win the War on Terrorism has benefited in two ways from the Liberation of Iraq. First, the U.S. no longer needs to station troops in Saudi Arabia, where they were also being attacked by Islamic militants. The presence of American troops in the Muslim holy land was the main excuse for Osama bin Laden’s opposition to the United States. Second, al-Qaeda made a strategic blunder by focusing on Iraq instead of Afghanistan. Al-Qaeda militants have been captured and killed by the thousands in the Battle of Iraq – a major defeat for them in the War on Terrorism.

Defeating hostile Islamic militants is vital to the West because history demonstrates that successful Islamic militancy is essential to the rise of Islam. Barack Obama ought to study this history. The military conquests by Arab Muslims beginning in the 7th Century seemed to suggest that Allah favored their cause, which helped them to win many converts.

A second wave of Muslim aggression threatened Western Europe by the 16th Century. A rapidly growing Ottoman Turkish Empire planned to invade Rome. At the naval Battle of Lepanto in 1571, a coalition of the willing launched a preemptive strike against the Muslim Turkish aggressors. Against a larger Turkish force, the Christians achieved a decisive victory. Lepanto and the Siege of Vienna in 1683 marked the turning points in Western resistance to Ottoman aggression.

Militant Muslims have been searching for another leader to avenge the West ever since. Therefore, the defeat of Saddam Hussein, who cast himself as just such a leader, was as necessary for Western survival as it is to defeat Osama bin Laden in order to prove that Allah is not on the side of militant Muslims.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Father Stanley Jaki, Rest in Peace

Father Stanley Jaki, priest and scientist, died today in Madrid at the age of 84. A leading philosopher, theologist and sciencist, Fr. Jaki was the author of forty books, focused primarily on the relation between modern science and Christianity. The Hungarian-born Benedectine was a longtime professor of physics at Seton Hall University.

Fr. Jaki's life's work focused on the compatibility of science and Christianity, despite the differences between them. Through his study of modern science, theology and history, he successfully proved that St. Thomas Aquinas was right that faith and reason are not mutually exclusive. Indeed, modern science could only develop because of the Judeo-Christian belief that the Creator is rational, and that He created a rational universe, the laws of which are thus discoverable by man through reason. As a historian of science, Fr. Jaki, who held doctorates in both theology from the Pontifical Institute and physics from Fordham University, wrote of the numerous modern scientists who were also men of faith.

Fr. Jaki's most significant contribution to cosmology is his application of Godel's mathematical theorem to physics. Godel's theorem holds that any significant mathematic theory must be incomplete or inconsistent. Fr. Jaki drew a parallel with physics, which is reliant upon mathematics, in theorizing that no theory of physics which is intended to explain the all-encompassing nature of the universe could ever be complete or consistent. In other words, one could never be certain of any "Theory of Everything."

A member of the Pontifical Academy of Science and the National Academy of Science, Fr. Jaki lectured at Oxford, Yale and Edinburgh Universities. In 1987, he was awarded the Templeton Prize for furthering the understanding of science and religion.

May the soul of Fr. Stanley Jaki rest in peace.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

NATO Forgives Russia for Georgian Invasion

The meeting of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization was somewhat successful. The U.S. was able to get some NATO allies to send 5,000 more police and soldiers, including some combat troops, to Afghanistan, although the figure represents only about half of what Barak Obama sought. Danish Prime Minister Rasmussen, a staunch ally in the War on Terrorism, was unanimously elected the new NATO Secretary by the 28 members, including new members Albania and Croatia. NATO's door remains open to more new members.

However, NATO restored its relationship with Russia, which had been broken last Summer after Russia invaded Georgia, a prospective NATO member that enjoys a partnership with the alliance. In other words, despite all of the Western condemnation of Russia for its aggression against a NATO ally, the Bear has mostly gotten away essentially unpunished with its bad behavior. To its credit, the West has given some support for Georgia, but it will be difficult to reverse the secession of its two breakaway republics, South Ossetia and Abkhazia, which likely will be absorbed eventually into the Russian empire.

Russia's leverage over Europe, which comes from its exportation of oil, combined with European tendencies to appease, means that Russian aggression will have paid off. Although a weakened Georgia may remain a pro-Western democratic state, Russia will gain influence and even territory, while Moscow has sent the clear message to former Soviet Republics in its "Near Abroad" that it will not tolerate pro-Western tendencies. Vladimir Putin's autocratic rule in Russia has proven itself strong, which appeals domestically to Russian nationalism.

An Olympics is planned for the Black Sea port of Sochi, just a few miles from Georgian territory occupied by Russian troops. It would be an insult to sovereignty and the principle of self-determination if the West did not boycott the games. But judging from NATO's current tolerance of Russian aggression, it appears likely that the West will not risk irking the Bear.

Blog Notes

Since I launched this blog in November, I have continued to improve it. Earlier, I had established a header and added to my profile. Now I have changed counters because the first one I had was inaccurate, and added a link to it on my blog. This counter is far superior to the earlier one. Finally, note the addition of a blog roll. Please visit these trustworthy sites.

Also, I figured out why the times of my posts seemed so random. Apparently, they were set to some other time zone (possibly Coordinated Universal Time, formerly known as Greenwich Mean Time), by default. Plus, the times of the posts represent not the times of the actual posting, but the time a poster begins to write the post, which can be a significant gap.

Again, thank you for your continued patronage of my blog. Please visit it at least weekly and feel free to post any comments.

Analysis of Conservative Opposition to Obama and Congressional Democrats

Although Barak Obama, whose Democratic party enjoys large majorities in both chambers of Congress, has achieved most of what he has wanted to so far, Republicans and other conservatives have been successful in blocking some of his and the Democratic majority's proposals. With such small minorities, successful loyal opposition is characterized more by preventing the majority from accomplishing planks from its platform than from advancing any causes of its own.

Obama only compromised on his so-called stimulus to the degree necessary to gain the votes of three Republican Senators. He gave up a few billion dollars in spending and allowed a fix for the Alternative Minimum tax so it would not hit middle class taxpayers, out of his massive $787 billion measure. Congressional Democrats had to give up plans to fund the distribution of artificial birth control and Obama's "Buy America" trade provisions, which would have sparked a larger trade war with allies than the separate one he sparked with Mexico. However, on other bills, Obama has not bothered even to try to attract any Republican votes. As was even the case on the stimulus bill despite the three Republican votes, Obama has inspired more Democratic opposition to his radical proposals than GOP support.

Veterans groups were successful in thwarting an Obama proposal to force disabled veterans to seek reimbursement from private insurers for medical care, which would have increased led to increased costs to the veterans.

Finally, congressional Republicans successfully have blocked Obama's proposed political payback for labor unions that would have ended secret ballots in elections to decide whether to organize a union at a particular company.

There are other measures that have attracted opposition or amendment from conservatives, but have not completed the legislative process. For now, conservatives can take some heart in being able to oppose successfully some of the more radical policies being advanced by liberal politicians in control of the federal government.

Friday, April 3, 2009

"The Hundred Days"

“The Hundred Days” refers to the period between Napoleon Bonaparte’s escape from exile in Elba, through his triumphant return to France, to his ultimate defeat at Waterloo in 1815. President Franklin Roosevelt, who came into office amidst the Great Depression, set a standard for the quantity of accomplishments for his first hundred days in office that is unlikely to be matched by any successor.

Although presidents sometimes draw attention to their accomplishments in their first hundred days, and the media and other politicians do, too, the milestone is arbitrary and overrated. A better barometer for presidential accomplishment is after the conclusion of the congressional session, at least before it breaks for summer recess, but commentators customarily rate a new president’s performance at the one hundred-day mark. They tend to focus on the quantity instead on the quality of the accomplishments, which reflects the Roosevelt standard.

Barak Obama’s will have been in office for one hundred days April 29, but now is an opportune time to assess his performance because Congress has approved his budget. Of course, a budget is just a guideline, so I shall reserve a fuller assessment until after Congress passes the appropriation bills based upon it. I only analyze Obama’s accomplishments, not his proposals.

Obama’s policies reflect a general continuation of the War on Terrorism, which is not a surprise, given that most of his George W. Bush's policies had received bipartisan support, but is a relief, considering that Obama had criticized Bush so heavily as to be the anti-Bush candidate. Specifically, Obama has not withdrawn precipitously from Iraq, and is carrying out the troop surge and counterinsurgency strategy for Afghanistan begun by his predecessor that is modeled on the success achieved in Iraq. Indeed, the Obama Administration has been aggressive in firing missiles from drones – a Bush Administration initiative -- against terrorists in Pakistan. Moreover, Obama has kept most of Bush's wartime intelligence and defense structure in place, including even some of the controversial parts (e.g. detaining terrorists, the PATRIOT Act and warantless wiretapping).

However, Obama has suspended military tribunals, in favor of trying terrorists in civilian courts, which would be much more difficult for prosecutors who must decide whether it is worth the revealing the secrets of sources and methods of intelligence in order to win convictions in civilian courts, where the rules of procedure are more favorable to defendants than in military courts. Another disconcerting retreat from Bush’s War on Terrorism is that Obama has announced the weakening of interrogations of terrorists and even announced that the Army Field Manuel will serve as the guide for interrogations, which allows the enemy to know precisely what methods interrogators will use, and thus how to resist them. These changes, as well as Obama’s conciliatory tone toward terrorists like Iran and Hamas, sends a signal of weakness to both our enemies and our friends.

It is too early to render much more of a judgment about Obama’s foreign policy, except that he tends to blame Bush and the United States for the world’s problems, and shows respect to our enemies and disrespects our friends, like typical a liberal. One foreign policy mistake so far is his trade policy that sparked retaliatory sanctions by Mexico.

Obama ordered U.S. foreign aid funds to be made available for groups that provide or promote abortion. He also made funding available for the destruction of human embryos and dismissively insulted anyone concerned about ethics in science as “ideological,” while promoting his own ideology.

The new president has gone on an unprecedented and unnecessary spending spree, as noted in earlier posts, which will necessitate more borrowing and, in turn, higher taxes in order to pay the interest on the massive debt. Additionally, he has abandoned welfare reform. Obama’s requirement of paying the prevailing (union) wage in government contracts will further add to the spending, and also strengthens Big Labor, which supports Obama and most Congressional Democrats. Radical political groups like ACORN will also benefit from his largesse. Obama’s tax cuts for the lower classes will probably be economically beneficial to some degree, but they will be offset by dramatically higher cigarette taxes and higher taxes on small businesses. His tax increases on the upper classes will slow economic growth overall. Meanwhile, Obama’s proposals to solve the financial crisis and for mortgage relief have increased uncertainty in the market, which discourages investment.

Obama’s expansion of government, centralization of control and redistributionism not only further erodes states’ rights, but threatens the liberty of the American people.

In short, Obama is mostly following the right policies in the War on Terrorism, despite some of his troubling rhetoric, but is governing as a radical uninterested in bipartisanship -- even for political cover -- in domestic affairs.

Commentary on Current U.S. Coins

An article I wrote will be published in the Spring edition of The Italian American Perspective, the newsletter of the Italian American Cultural Center of Pennsylvania, entitled “Italian American Artists Beautify U.S. Coinage.” The article’s publication and recent changes to the design of the Lincoln Cent reminded me of my interest in providing historical and political commentary on current regular issue United States coins.

One of the most successful bills passed by Congress in modern times was the one that established the 50 State Quarters program in 1999, which was extended to include the District of Columbia and the territories this year. Throughout American numismatic history, coin designs were changed about once every generation. However, current U.S. coin designs had remained largely unchanged for decades, which caused American coins to become so ordinary as to be unnoticed and unappreciated by the general public. The Washington Quarter, for example, was first minted in 1932 and remained mostly unchanged until the State Quarters program. The program not only represented changes in designs, but produced coins that were educational, promoted the interests of the states and inspired coin-collecting among the broader population (in other words, not just change for the sake of change). As a result, the program has produced a profit to the U.S. of billions of dollars.

The year after the debut of the State Quarters program, the U.S. began minting a new design for a dollar coin, the Sacagawea Dollar. Dollar coins, which had not been minted from 1981-1999, are intended to save costs because they last much longer than paper dollar notes. However, dollar coins have usually not circulated widely throughout American history. The Sacagawea Dollar, as a result, has been criticized as a bust because it seldom circulates, but part of the reason is because the public hoards it – the same reason that Kennedy Half Dollars rarely have been seen in circulation. The Sacagawea design is an improvement over the Anthony Dollar of 1979-1981. The Anthony Dollar was smaller than the Half Dollar even though it had the same composition, which seemed to be emblematic of the high inflation of the administration of President Jimmy Carter. The selection of Anthony, a woman’s rights advocate, instead of a figure of more general historical importance, seemed also to represent the typical liberal patronizing of the period. Therefore, the public rejected the Anthony Dollar. The Sacagawea design, in contrast, appears golden in color because of its unique composition. Sacagawea, the Shoshone guide to Lewis and Clark, is a figure of major significance who represents friendship between Native Americans and European immigrants. The Sacagawea design is also much more beautiful than the Anthony design. Sacagawea’s unusual over-the-shoulder, smiling glance seems to beckon us like she did Lewis and Clark to reach for the next frontier. The reverse featured a majestic flying eagle. However the new design will feature a Native American at work in a field, and the coin has been renamed the “Native American Dollar.”

I note there was some thought in considering the Sacagawea design of representing the allegorical figure of Liberty that traditionally graced American coinage instead of a specific person. I recall a black woman on the committee tasked with approving coin designs complaining that no images of Native Americans had ever appeared on U.S. coins. Apparently, she must have been unfamiliar with the Buffalo Nickel and the Indian Head Half and Quarter Eagles. At least in Sacagawea, a Native American of general historical significance was selected. Alas, the new Presidential Dollars feature images of the Statue of Liberty on their reverses, instead of the traditional Liberty. Thus, the coins feature a symbol of a symbol instead of just the symbol, which probably both reflects and promotes ignorance about the figure of Liberty.

Recent changes to the reverse designs of the Jefferson Nickel, which had been mostly unchanged since its introduction in 1938, to commemorate the bicentennial of the Lewis and Clark expedition were good, but except for a change to the portrait of Thomas Jefferson on the obverse, the coins have returned mostly to their previous design. New reverse designs are being minted for the Lincoln Cent to commemorate the bicentennial of Abraham Lincoln’s birth, but the obverse has remained mostly unchanged since its introduction in 1909. Like the Washington Quarter, the continuation of part of these coin designs demonstrates resistance to the tradition of changing coins once every generation or so.

More importantly, the Lincoln Cent violates an American tradition of not placing images of individuals on coins, which is why Liberty was preferred, so that coins would be unitive and not disunitive. It may be acceptable to put Founding Fathers on coins, but placing images of favored presidents of whatever political party controls Congress is a practice that ought to end. Indeed, I oppose the new Presidential Dollar series not so much because of the disappointing reverse image, but because it is inappropriate to treat all presidents equally. I hope that the series would terminate before Bill Clinton, who had protested against the U.S. on foreign soil, is ever honored on American coinage.

I call for a return to Liberty!